The worst thing pastors can do is not be themselves!
Forgive me in advance for using language some might find offensive, but let’s face it: People have built-in crap detectors. Some have better detectors than others, but everyone has one.
The one thing these detectors sniff out faster than anything else is in-authenticity.
I think there are four major ways pastors fake it and set these detectors off:
1. We clone our preaching
I’ll admit it: I sometimes use other pastors’ sermon outlines. In fact, when I was a church planter I learned to preach by downloading Rick Warren sermon outlines. I was swamped as the only staff person in a new church, and Rick’s outlines saved me tons of time (which also saved my sanity and probably my marriage). During that season of my life, I learned two things about using someone else’s sermon outlines: 1) I’m not Rick Warren (although, for a time, I was guilty of trying to be), but 2) it is possible to “own” an outline I didn’t write. I learned I should never try to clone another preacher’s style, tone, rhythm or inflection because I’m not him! It took me a while, but over time, I’ve learned to leverage messages written by other pastors by filtering them through my own uniqueness and context.
2. We hide our quirks
I’m a geek and I’m proud. Yet, while I’ve always been a geek, I wasn’t always forthcoming about it. Getting bullied in junior high taught me to hide my geekhood. I’m a rabid Star Wars fan, but in the past, I didn’t reveal that to people up front.
My office used to look like most pastors’ offices. I had pictures of family and paintings of Jesus, lambs, lions and Bible verses hanging on my wall. I had tons of books people had passed down to me (too many for me to read in one lifetime).
Truth be told, I didn’t like or enjoy my office. Now I have pictures of family and tons of Star Wars memorabilia in my office—and only three bookshelves with the books I actually read. Now I love my office! People seem to enjoy it, too. They get a good laugh and learn a little bit about me.
Pastors, let’s own our quirks. They make each of us unique! Owning your quirks makes you more self-aware, more transparent, more fun and more authentic.
3. We don’t share our struggles
We live in the age of the personality cult, so it’s easy to pretend we have it all together and let people put us on a pedestal.
This is dangerous! Pastors, we are humans with tremendous flaws. When we share our flaws openly, others see us as real people, and they are less likely to put us on pedestals.
We must be wise about our transparency, though.
It’s one thing to admit in a sermon that you battle lust. It’s another thing to name the names of the women you have a hard time looking away from.
Share your weaknesses in your sermons, but be careful with the gory details…share those with your accountability partners. If you don’t have accountability, that’s a whole other conversation we need to have.
4. We live a double standard
We say it’s important to participate in missions, but we don’t show up for mission events. We say people need small groups, but we don’t participate in one. We say people should invite friends to church, but we don’t. We say everyone should read the Bible and pray daily, but outside of sermon-prep, we don’t.
I’m speaking in generalities, of course, but you get the point. Pastors, we have no business challenging the people we lead to do something we aren’t willing to do!
I’ve been guilty of all of these from time to time, so I’m not writing this out of condemnation. Rather, I’m writing it out of understanding. It’s hard being a pastor, but no difficulty excuses deceit. Let’s make an extra effort to be real! Authenticity attracts people to the Gospel. In-authenticity repels them.
These are just a few ways we deceive people by hiding our true selves.
What would you add to the list?
“When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes, he may very well say, ‘Friend, come up to the front.’ That will give the dinner guests something to talk about! What I’m saying is, if you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself” (Luke 14:10-11, The Message).